There’s a little song I learned growing up that goes, “O be careful little eyes what you see.” I can’t help but think of that song as we begin to watch a man ruin his life because he follows the desires of his eyes.
Judges chapter 15 picks up the narrative with Samson returning for his Philistine wife, only to be refused by her father, who informs Samson in verse 2 that he has given her to another man. Samson responds by going out and catching a trainload of foxes—or jackals—tying them together in pairs, attaching a burning torch between each pair, and then letting them loose. They run around burning up Philistine fields and orchards (verses 4-5).
The Philistines retaliate by killing Samson’s wife and her family. Then in verse 8, we are told that “[Samson] struck them hip and thigh with a great blow.” “Hip and thigh” is an expression for total destruction.
Evidently the Israelites are too afraid to help Samson in this fight. In fact, the tribe of Judah is willing to hand him over. Samson allows them to tie him up and deliver him to the Philistines; but once inside the Philistine camp, he single-handedly destroys 1,000 Philistine soldiers.
As chapter 15 ends, we are told in verse 20, that Samson “judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.” In other words, God brought deliverance from the Philistines through Samson’s leadership.
Samson might have defeated the Philistine armies, but he could not defeat the lust of his eyes. The Bible begins now to record the downward spiral of Samson, beginning in chapter 16, verse 1:
Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him . . . at the gate of the city.”
I don’t need to fill in the details, but Samson should have been singing, “O be careful little eyes what you see.”
When Samson decides to leave around midnight, he comes out to the locked gates of the city, where the Philistines are hoping to trap him. But look at verse 3:
He . . . took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up . . . and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill.
This town has a hole in their city wall and a major dent in their city budget!
The real tragedy here is that Samson’s strength came after a night of sin. He has spent the night with a Philistine prostitute, and then he rips the doors off the city walls. He is now fully deceived into believing that no matter how he lives, he is invincible.
At this point, Samson is set up to fall when he meets the next woman, whose name is Delilah. Now you need to know that Delilah is an Israelite name, not Philistine. By this time, Samson is around fifty years of age. He’s judged Israel for twenty long and difficult years.
It’s quite possible Samson wants to settle down, and he chooses an Israelite woman. The trouble is, he and Delilah are living together before marriage, so he’s going about it in all the wrong ways.
Verses 4-5 set the stage:
After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies . . . that we may bind him.”
When Delilah comes to Samson in verse 6 and says, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you,” that should have set off some alarm bells. A woman in love would want to know how to defend him; she wants to know how to defeat him.
What follows is a little cat-and-mouse game. Delilah is the cat; Samson is the mouse. Only in this case, the mouse is dumb enough to think he can play with a cat.
So, Samson toys with her in verse 7, telling her if he is tied up with bowstrings, he will be helpless. He goes to sleep, and she ties him up. She then wakes him by saying, “The Philistines are upon you!” He easily snaps the bowstrings and probably laughs at this little game.
Now don’t picture the Philistines here rushing upon Samson. Nowhere does the text say they come out of their hiding place. They are not going to show up until Delilah has figured this thing out.
Eventually, Delilah turns on the crocodile tears and wears him down. Verse 17 records:
He told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”
Notice carefully here that Samson believes his strength comes from his hair. He doesn’t connect it to his vow as a Nazirite and the power of the Spirit of God.
And with that, Delilah gives him a haircut while he’s sleeping; and verse 21 tells us the Philistines capture him, and the first thing they do is put out his eyes. For his entire adult life, Samson has been spiritually blind; now he becomes physically blind.
Samson’s hair had not given him power. The Lord had. But Samson had slowly abandoned his Nazirite vow to God, and now the last remaining symbol of that vow, his long hair, is gone.
While he’s in prison, Samson’s hair, we are told, “began to grow again” (verse 22). Don’t misunderstand. This does not mean his super strength is returning because his hair is growing. His power came from the Holy Spirit. This phrase is a reminder that God has not abandoned him; God’s power is still available—if he will live up to his Nazarite vow. So, instead of keeping his hair cut, he is letting it grow long again, which implies his repentance and spiritual growth.
Verse 23 describes a great festival, where several thousand Philistines, along with their rulers, have gathered to praise their god for delivering Samson to them. And when Samson is brought forth, he cries out to God:
“O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (verse 28)
This prayer, “remember me,” reveals that Samson is truly repentant. “Remember” is a word linked to forgiveness over past sins. That thief hanging on the cross said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). In other words, “forgive the sins of my past.”
Samson’s prayer shows not only his repentance but also his dependence. Did you notice that for the first time, he understands his strength is not in his hair but in his God! “Strengthen me only this once, O God.”
And God answers his prayer. He dislodges the pillars, and that arena comes crashing down, destroying this Philistine kingdom and its rulers, along with Samson himself, who effectively dies here as a soldier in battle.
Here’s the warning for us today: What are we looking at? What are we following after? What are we desiring? O be careful little eyes what you see.